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May 19, 2009

Bar Harbor Cheat Sheet

Cleonice executive chef Rich Hanson
shows off his paella.

Photo: Cleonice

by Mollie Chen

It's not quite white pants weather, but with Memorial Day around the corner I'm ready for some seasonal escapes. I got a taste of summertime this past weekend when I took a little father-daughter trip up to Acadia National Park. Owing to our poor map-reading skills, Papa Chen and I had more intensive hiking and biking experiences than we meant to. (A word to the wise: Pay attention to those contour lines on the map, and study the trails before you set off!) To replenish all those calories we spent scrambling up ledges and slogging up hills, we sought out the area's best places to eat:

2 Cats Café: This cute café has light-filled dining areas, ultra-friendly service, and a healthy/organic bent. We sat between a table of rugged outdoorsy types plotting their next rock-climbing trip and a family of locals who knew our server by name. The granola at  2 Cats is deservedly famous and comes with thick Greek yogurt and lovingly sliced bananas; fluffy omelets made with farm-fresh eggs are a gorgeous buttery yellow and come with tender homemade biscuits.

Morning Glory Bakery: Down a small side street, this prolific bakery has everything from muffins and bagels to textbook-perfect tarts and fresh sandwiches. Equally appealing for Sunday paper reading--cappuccino and scones, anyone?--or for grabbing picnic supplies.

Mount Desert Island Ice Cream Co.: Cruise ship day-trippers line up at Ben & Bill's in the center of town, but savvy ice-cream lovers head down the street to this hip newcomer. In addition to standard flavors, there are fun concoctions like zabaglione raisin, cinnamon cardamom, and cranberry bliss bar. Neato Doritos was a little too offbeat for me, but I loved the spicy hot chili chocolate.

Cleonice: A 30-minute drive from Bar Harbor, in the town of Ellsworth, Cleonice is a big-city restaurant with a small-town feel. The warm space has the original 1930s-era wooden booths and hand-carved wall details and, to Papa Chen's delight, very agreeable noise levels. The massive Mediterranean-leaning menu trots from tapas and mezes to small plates and entrées with more hits than misses; we especially loved the spinach salad with hazelnuts, warm local goat cheese, hazelnuts, and bacon; the perfectly crisp soft-shell crab with fresh pea shoots; and the insanely good brown bread ice cream. Last year the restaurant started its own farm, Artisana, where it grows its own produce and also raises chickens and pigs, the latter of which turns into homemade salumi and other dishes. And there's more to come--Cleonice is opening a new restaurant later this month, in the nearby town of Blue Hill.

A & B Naturals: Papa Chen generally leaves the healthy food to me, but even he was won over by the impressive selection raw honey and bulk quinoa at this tidy market. There's a juice bar, prepared salads (I loved the kale with tofu and nutty peanut dressing), and every kind of trail mix, dried fruit bar, or hiking snack you could possibly want (101 Cottage St.; 207-288-8480).


Is this what you go on vacation to eat? You must have voted for Obadma. Vacations are about treats, not health. I can give you a dozen places to eat and yours aren't even near, with the exception of the ice cream place, and there is a better one off the square in Bar Harber.

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